don_draper-1280×900

Mad Men Weekly Discussion for Episode 3: “Field Trip”

Sebastian: Episode three of Mad Men was an awkward one. First lets get to the meat of “Field Trip”: Don’s return. It’s clear that Roger is Don’s only friend seeing as he asks Don to return to work. But of course, Roger doesn’t give anyone else the memo and Don walks into an office of terribly confused SC&P employees. With Don out of the picture at the firm, we’ve been seeing a real power struggle, primarily between Cutler and Sterling. In the last episode, Jim Cutler has been really calling the shots and Roger feels like he’s losing grip of his company. Perhaps that’s why he asks Don to come back, because he relates to his struggle, but most of all, wants someone back on his side of the ring. The corporate maneuvering aspect of the show is always fascinating to me because of the tension characters face juggling their personal feeling with the desire to make good business decisions. The lines of objectivity and subjectivity blur.

Don walks into a very different SC&P, an outsider to the company he helped build. Some are pretty stoked to see him, eager to catch him up and get his feedback after months of creative stagnation, courtesy of Lou Avery. Peggy, however,  despite her hatred for Lou, still has it in for Don after his antics last season. There’s something incredibly humbling about the whole experience. He’s still a partner, but his return is beyond awkward as he and the partners struggle to figure out his place in the company. What it culminates into is probably one of the most surprising endings of an episode: Don conceding to the partners’ conditions for his return.

Lauren: “Okay.”

Don’s done fighting for now. I loved all the close, slightly shaky shots of his troubled little face. Now that he’s sorta sober, it’s time to take the punches sitting down. Apologize to Megan. Feel uncomfortable in the office — his office, dammit. Let Peggy dismiss him. Agree to the terms of return that the partners outlined. He needs to steady the camera, to get confident, fixed gazes from the people around him. “Okay.”

But I’m worried about Roger. Here’s the thing: Roger never has to do a presentation. There’s little danger of him crumbling over a Hershey bar. He’s gotten away doing the same nonsense Don has done for even longer than Don has done it, because his primary job is to keep the clients happy (read: wasted). When Roger greets Don in the office, after the lost lamb has already been sitting there for hours waiting for him, he sounds drunk and desperate instead of drunk and funny: I can declare a holiday if I want! My name is on the door! I go to work when I feel like it! That’s the sound of a man on decline, who’s too far up the food chain to notice the fall. Don’s addiction is a very comfortable shadow where Roger can hide with his band of hippies. I’m worried about Roger.

Sebastian: This episode also brings back Betty, her family life juxtaposed with Don’s struggles. It appears that Betty is dissatisfied with motherhood, or her definition of it. She’s clearly resentful of her friend who got a job three days a week at a travel agency, and finds the work incredibly rewarding, to which Betty responds, “I thought they [their children] were the reward.” Obviously, Betty doesn’t feel appreciated. That woman is a bit of a mystery to me. She chaperoned her son’s field trip to a farm and her behavior ranged from snarky, sweet then cold bitchy. She was very un-Betty when she drank milk fresh from the cow, impressing her son, and then got real mean when her son traded her sandwich for candy. But what she didn’t see was how he saved her seat from being occupied by a friend. She’s way too bitter for her own good and takes it out on her kids. Worst thing is that she acts this way after having eluded to such behavior in previous seasons coming from her own mother. It seems that while Don accepts his fate, accepts the consequences of his actions, Betty is becoming restless and will make some kind of drastic change.

Lauren: When Betty takes a swig from that bucket of milk, she’s not doing it as the Cool Mom, but as the Other Kid. Betty likes the rush and energy of something new (Milk! Pick me!), but gets restless and agitated the instant things don’t go her way, which is the definition of childhood. Bobby’s biggest mistake isn’t that he traded the sandwich for a bag of candy — it’s that he thinks he has a mom who might not freak out at that. Sally would have traded the sandwich and smirked. I don’t think Betty’s terrible, but all the things she could accept as lessons learned she instead turns into warped evidence of a disconnect she’s creating herself. “Do you think I’m a good mother?” Once in awhile, but that’s no good for the long haul.